The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider’s name traces its roots back to the 1960s, but its bones are much newer than that. The two-seat sports car shares a structure with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but the Fiat makes an effort to strike its own path.
While it is built in Japan by Mazda, it has Italian model names like Classica, Lusso, and Abarth, unique styling, and a Fiat engine under the hood. The so-called “Fiata” drives much like its Mazda sister, and that’s a good thing because the Miata is one of the most fun and agile cars on the market. We rate the Fiat 124 Spider a 6.6 overall, giving it points for performance, but noting that it has room to improve in features and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
One model year after its debut, the Fiat 124 Spider is little changed for 2018. A new Red Top Edition is added as an option, featuring a red convertible top, and the options lists for the Lusso and Abarth models are rearranged.
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From the outside, the Fiat looks nothing like the Mazda. In fact, the two cars share no body panels. That’s because Fiat styled its roadster using the same 90.9-inch wheelbase but added some length to the design and incorporated some features from the original 124 that was sold from 1966 to 1985. Inside, however, it’s hard to tell the two cars apart aside from some more soft-touch surfaces in the Fiat. The Fiat even uses Mazda’s infotainment system.
The biggest change between the two cars lies under the hood. While the Miata is motivated by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, the Fiat gets Fiat-Chrysler’s turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes as much as 164 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Despite the Fiat’s better power numbers, the Mazda is quicker to 60 mph, though the Fiat has better passing punch. Both cars offer the same 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and fuel economy is very similar at 29-30 mpg combined.
The Fiat 124 Spider owes its greatest strength to Mazda engineering. At just 2,436 pounds, it is extremely light, though about 100 pounds heavier than the Mazda. Still, the driving character is much the same: smooth riding with a some lean in turns, but very agile when driven hard and always smile-inducing.
From a features standpoint, the 124 has modest base equipment and just a few options packages, but the value is undeniable. The Lusso model is the choice for those who want a few more amenities and the Abarth is best for those with a sportier mindset. Safety equipment is also basic, though some nice active safety features are optional.